Arik Zeevi failed yesterday to defend his title of European judo champion in the up-to-100-kilogram class, losing his final bout to France's Christophe Humbert and making do with the silver medal at the European Championships in Rotterdam.
Humbert's yuko score was enough to beat Zeevi's koka after five minutes of fighting.
"The loss in the final left a bad taste in my mouth," Zeevi commented following the medal ceremony. "Had I done it a fourth time, I would have been inducted into the European Hall of Fame. In all honesty, [Humbert] was ready for the fight.
"I want to be world champion," Zeevi continued. "And the fact that the championships will be held on Egyptian soil makes it special. I have another three or four years to win championships."
Zeevi, a three-time European champion, beat local favorite Elco van der Geest by ippon on his way to the final. Zeevi overcame the Dutchman in a way that recalled their fight for the bronze medal at the Athens Olympics.
After getting to the second round of the competition, Zeevi began his title defense yesterday morning with a fight against Pawel Smoliniec of Poland, and was forced to work hard for his victory by waza-ari, koka and yuko to the Pole's two kokas.
The quarterfinals saw Zeevi up against Belarussian Yury Rybak, with the Israeli judoka scoring a convincing win by ippon three minutes into the bout.
Competing in the over-100-kilogram category, Adrian Kordon also came away with a championship medal yesterday, taking the bronze in the repechage with a victory by koka over Hungarian Barna Bor.
"Of course I was expecting [to win] a medal, but after the first loss, I had to find the strength and go on, and I am happy I was successful," Kordon said.
The 27-year-old Israeli won his first fight of the competition by ippon, overcoming Ibro Miladin of Bosnia Herzogovina after 2:41 minutes. But Kordon's next hurdle was too high for him, with the quarterfinals pitting him against Russian Alexander Mikhaylin, the reigning world champion, who won their bout by ippon after 2:43 minutes.
Kordon won his first repechage fight against Slovenian Matjaz Ceraj by ippon, and then followed up with another ippon win over Ivan Iliev of Bulgaria.
A minimum three-point score was enough for Kordon to claim the bronze in his final fight of the competition.
The Israeli delegation will return home with three medals - Zeevi's silver and Kordon's bronze from yesterday, and Yoel Rozbozov's silver from Saturday.
"For the first time, Israeli judo is coming home with three European Championships medals, and I am happy that Arik and Yoel were joined by Adrian, who is continuing the tradition of achievements in judo, Israel's most successful Olympic sport," said Eddie Koaz, chairman of the Israel Judo Federation. "I hope the exposure will help us to find sponsors for the national team and the judokas who will support and lead Israeli judo to more successes in the international arena in the future."
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